- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan has been retired from the NBA for a decade, but he warned at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2009 not to count him out from making one last comeback.
"One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50," Jordan said near the close of his speech, eliciting laughter from the crowd in Springfield, Mass. "Oh, don't laugh. Never say never. Because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion."
Jordan turns 50 in about a week on Feb. 17. What would happen if he traded in his ownership stake in the Charlotte Bobcats for one more chance to lace up his Air Jordans in the league? Could he do it?
"I wouldn't doubt that in the right situation with a LeBron (James) on his team or with a Kobe (Bryant) on this team, he could get you about 10 or 11 points, come in and play 15-20 minutes," said Antawn Jamison before the Lakers played the Bobcats on Friday. "I wouldn't doubt that at all, especially if he was in shape and injuries were prevented and things of that nature."
That's saying a lot, considering Jamison has Bryant on his team, and only averages 8.1 points per game in 20.5 minutes per game and he's "only" 36 years old.
Jordan averaged 20.0 points in 37.0 minutes per game in his 15th and final season in the league before retiring for good at age 40.
"He wasn't joking," said Jamison of Jordan's declaration at the HOF ceremony. "You hear stories still to this day, especially last year, him going to the practice facility and playing 1-on-1 with the guys and still they can't stop him."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Matthew "Nat" Hickey was the oldest player in NBA history when he played one game for the Providence Steam Rollers at 45 years, 363 days old on Jan. 28, 1948.
Jamison, who used to play during the summer months in Chapel Hill, N.C., against his fellow University of North Carolina alum in Jordan, said the former six-time NBA Finals MVP has the confidence to pull it off.
"He still believes he can do it," Jamison said.
Even though Jordan is older than a lot of the parents of players in the NBA and hasn't suited up since the 2002-03 season for the Washington Wizards, Jamison said he still has a major impact on the league as he approaches his 50th birthday.
"The key is, that's the guy we wanted to be like," Jamison said. "This guy inspired us to try to do it all, the impossible and the man over there (gestures to Bryant's locker), he's trying to catch him so that just lets you know his impact is still felt and he's just done so much for this league as well."
Bryant, who used to balk at Jordan comparisons saying he wanted to become the "first Kobe Bryant" rather than the "next Michael Jordan," embraced the Jordan connection when asked about it this week.
"It's always around," Bryant said after shootaround in Boston on Thursday when asked about Jordan's influence. "You can see it in myself. I'm an embodiment of him and he was a muse for me growing up, obviously, as he was for a lot of people. So, that legacy still lives on as Dr. J (Julius Erving) was for him and David Thompson and all of those guys. So, the legacy of your predecessors is always around you."
Added Jamison: "Ask anybody in this locker room. (Jordan) could walk down that hallway (and have the recognition) like he's still playing, like he's about to lace them up. This generation, and even the ones younger than some of the guys in here, he's still having an influence on guys who have never even seen him play in person. That's saying a lot. It's been, what? Ten years since he's played? Name me another player that's been out of the game for 10 years and still has an impact on the game the way he does."
Keith F. Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
1mMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne